Crowley, John 1942-

views updated

Crowley, John 1942-

PERSONAL:

Born December 1, 1942, in Presque Isle, ME; son of Joseph B. (a doctor) and Patience Crowley; married Laurie Block, 1984; children: two daughters. Education: Indiana University, B.A., 1964.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Box 395, Conway, MA 01341. Agent—Ralph Vicinanza, 111 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10011. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Photographer and commercial artist, 1964-66; fiction writer and freelance writer for films and television, 1966—. Yale University, visiting professor of creative writing, then lecturer in English, beginning 1994.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Ford Foundation Undergraduate grant, 1963-64; American Book Award nomination, 1980, for Engine Summer; Hugo Award nomination, Nebula Award nomination, and World Fantasy Award, all 1982, all for Little, Big; American Film Festival Award, 1982, for America Lost and Found; World Fantasy Award, 1990, for Great Work of Time; American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for literature; Locus award, for short story "Gone"; Academy Award nomination, 1991, for The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler within Germany 1933-1945, and 1992, for The Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II; World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2006; Premio Flaianno, Italy, for The Translator; also recipient of an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Deep (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1975.

Beasts (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1976.

Engine Summer (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1979.

Little, Big, Bantam (New York, NY), 1981.

Great Work of Time (novella), Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Three Novels, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.

The Translator, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.

Otherwise: Three Novels (contains The Deep, Beasts, and Engine Summer), Perennial (New York, NY), 2002.

Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.

"ÆGYPT" TETRALOGY

Ægypt, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted as The Solitudes, Overlook (New York, NY), 2007.

Love and Sleep, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.

Dæmonomania, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.

Endless Things: A Part of Ægypt, Small Beer Press (Northampton, MA), 2007.

OTHER

(Editor, with Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow) The Haunted Dusk: American Supernatural Fiction, 1820-1920, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1983.

Novelty (short stories), Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

Antiquities: Seven Stories, Incunabula (Seattle, WA), 1993.

Novelties and Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction, Perennial (New York, NY), 2004.

In Other Words (essays and reviews), Subterranean Press (Burton, MI), 2007.

Author of screenplays for documentaries, including America Lost and Found, 1979; No Place to Hide, 1982; America and Lewis Hine, 1985; The World of Tomorrow, 1985; Are We Winning Mommy? America and theCold War, 1986; The World of Tomorrow, 1989; Fit: Episodes in the History of the Body, 1990; The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler within Germany 1933-1945, 1991; Pearl Harbor: Surprise and Remembrance, 1991; The Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II, 1992; The Gate of Heavenly Peace, 1995; Beyond Affliction, 1999; Voices of New China, 2000; The Burning Wall, 2002; and A Morning Sun, 2003. Work represented in anthologies, including Shadows, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1977; Whispers, edited by Stuart David Schiff, 1979; Elsewhere, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1981; The Science Fiction Century, 1988; Nebular Awards 25, 1991; The Norton's Book of Science Fiction, 1993; Omni Best Science Fiction Three, 1993; The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: The 50th Anniversary Anthology, 1994; Modern Classics of Fantasy, 1996; American Gothic Tales, 1996; Black Swan, White Raven, 1997; Future of Ice, 1998; Masterpieces: Best Science Fiction of the Century, 2001; and The Locus Award, 2004. Author of television scripts for America Lost and Found and No Place to Hide, Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Contributor to periodicals, including Omni, Yale Review, Conjunctions, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's, Gallery, Washington Post Book World, New York Times Book Review, Newsday, and Interzone.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author John Crowley has been praised by critics for his thoughtful, finely wrought works of science fiction and fantasy, which include the novels The Deep, Ægypt, Love and Sleep, and Dæmonomania. A successful television writer who has never pandered to popular tastes, Crowley infuses his genre writings with literary quality and "mind-catching philosophical musings," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of Dæmonomania. Suzanne Keen reported in Commonweal that his characters "are psychologically convincing, an accomplishment that makes the historical and fantastic elements of his [novel Love and Sleep] all the more thrilling." Whether his work visits far planets or local neighborhoods, some critics have suggested, Crowley always challenges the accepted perceptions of things and offers multilayered mysteries for his characters—and his readers—to explore. As a Kirkus Reviews contributor explained it in a review of Dæmonomania, "Crowley's work is a taste well worth acquiring, but you have to work at it."

In a New York Times Book Review piece on Crowley's first novel, The Deep, Gerald Jonas declared that "paraphrase is useless to convey the intensity of Crowley's prose; anyone interested in the risk-taking side of modern science fiction will want to experience it firsthand." Jonathan Dee noted, also in the New York Times Book Review, that Crowley "is an abundantly gifted writer, a scholar whose passion for history is matched by his ability to write a graceful sentence." Some reviewers observed that with his third novel, Engine Summer, Crowley developed more complex plots and characters, and his themes began reflecting the influence of the fantasy genre.

Novelist Carolyn See, in a review for the Los Angeles Times, commented that Crowley's fifth novel, Ægypt, contains "some extraordinary storytelling." Incorporating fantasy, satire, and philosophical romance, the novel centers on Pierce Moffett, a professor of Renaissance history whose desire to write a book about finding the meaning in life leads him to a mythical area and a mysterious woman. Washington Post Book World contributor Michael Dirda remarked that Ægypt "is clearly a novel where thought speaks louder than action, where people, places and events are at once actual and allegorical." Dirda went on to note: "Crowley wants readers to appreciate his foreshadowings, echoes, bits of odd lore, multiple voices—in the evolution of complex pattern is his art." Dirda also wrote, however, that Crowley's narrative is so complex that it can occasionally be confusing. Commenting on this complexity, John Clute, in a review for the New York Times Book Review, suggested that Ægypt provides "a dizzying experience." Ægypt is the first novel in an ambitious tetralogy centering upon the intellectual and personal journey of Moffett.

In Love and Sleep, Crowley continues the tale begun in Ægypt. While Ægypt tells of Moffett's life during the 1960s and 1970s, Love and Sleep frames that period, returning to the 1950s and allowing readers a glimpse of Moffett's Kentucky childhood, a time full of "minor incidents and wonders," according to Washington Post Book Review critic Lawrence Norfolk, before leaping ahead of Ægypt in true sequel fashion. In the novel, Norfolk explained, Crowley hangs his plot upon the speculation that "between the old world of things as they used to be, and the new world of things as they would be instead, there has always fallen a sort of passage time, a chaos of unformed possibilities in which all sorts of manifestations could be witnessed." It has "an interim feel, a sense of its author treading water while the players are maneuvered into position" for the proposed third and fourth segments of the series, Norfolk continued. "As it stands, Love and Sleep is a collection of strange episodes, of hints and premonitions. The ultimate worth of this strange, teasing book hangs on the two yet to be written." Jonathan Dee offered a similar assessment of the work for the New York Times Book Review: while the first section of Love and Sleep "generates a true, expansive sense of human mystery … the novel's own vision, so crystal clear in that opening section, grows woollier and more diffuse" as Moffett's saga continues. Chicago Tribune Books contributor Robert Chatain maintained that the author's mixture of realism and fantasy "is not for every reader," yet the critic added: "to dislike fantasy is not to dismiss Crowley; he's one of the few writers who successfully crosses the razor-thin but definite line between genre fiction and literary fiction." Citing the author's "metaphysical conceits," Chatain noted of Crowley that "there is no temptation to confuse [his novels] with other fictions; there's really nothing like them."

Dæmonomania continues the Pierce Moffett saga, as magic seeps further into the lives of Moffett and his acquaintances in Faraway Hills, New York. The title refers to a possible case of demonic possession, but the book portends even more massive shifts in what appears to be reality. For his part, Moffett comes to understand that magic once worked, that science has only temporarily halted the potency of magic, and that a "secret history," shared by a select few, actually directs the course of human actions. A Kirkus Reviews contributor, while noting that the book will mean more to those who have read its two predecessors, called it "deeply atmospheric, impressively learned, endlessly suggestive."

In 2002 Crowley went in a new direction with his writing, publishing The Translator, a work that "demonstrates to the reader … the escape that poetry and literature can provide in times of trouble," observed Booklist critic Ted Leventhal. Set in 1962, The Translator examines the relationship between Innokenti Falin, an exiled Russian poet, and Kit Malone, an American coed with a troubled past. The pair develop a close friendship, and Malone becomes Falin's translator. When the Cuban Missile Crisis erupts, their relationship is threatened by government officials who have been watching Falin. "Crowley's lovely, effortless writing and his accurate, earnest portraits of Russians make this a sad love story with an important piece of rhetoric at its heart," wrote a contributor in Kirkus Reviews. James Schiff, reviewing The Translator in Book, noted that "this simple and sincere novel, which masterfully renders a moment in history, possesses a certain beauty."

Novelties and Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction, a 2004 work, contains fifteen tales of the fantastic. In an interview on HarperCollins.com, Crowley remarked that the stories "reflect matters … that have always been of deep interest to me. Among those is the malleability of reality, and what it would be like if it could be altered by human wishes; what goes on in the mind and heart of someone who makes such wishes …; and the open-ended nature of the course of time, that produces unintended consequences, not always good or bad." A Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed Novelties and Souvenirs a "pleasing introduction to a very interesting writer's several ‘worlds.’"

Crowley's works are noted for their lyrical, lucid style and diverse, provocative characters. In an interview with Gavin J. Grant on Booksense.com, the author was asked why he writes from such varied points of view. "I'm drawn to characters who seem to perceive the secret history of the world, or see a world-story proceeding, and don't trust themselves—and don't believe that they could know such a thing—but are drawn to it anyway," Crowley responded. "That's been a consistent direction all my writing has taken. I can think of people whose minds are active in that way in almost all the books I've written."

In Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land, published in 2005, the author presents a novel within a novel. The story revolves around the myth of the lost papers of Lord Byron, which supposedly included a tale he wrote during the famous vacation that Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary's stepsister, Claire, spent at a Swiss villa. Shut in by a never-ending storm, Mary Shelley challenges everyone to write a ghost story. Out of this true historical account came Mary Shelly's famous novel Frankenstein. "The myth of Byron's lost papers has a catalyzing effect on American literary genius, giving us … Crowley's best novel," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor of Lord Byron's Novel.

As Crowley recounts in his novel, scholars for years have believed that Lord Byron did not accept the challenge presented by Mary Shelly. However, in Crowley's novel, Byron did write a novel that his daughter Ada finds after his death and copies in a secret code. Crowley tells the story of the manuscript's discovery and the breaking of the code. This in turn leads to the presentation of Byron's story about Ali, the illegitimate child of Lord "Satan" Sane. Harriet Klausner, writing on the Reader's Robot Web site, noted that the author "provides a brilliant tale told in two major parts in the nineteenth century and today." Writing in the Magazine of Fantasyand Science Fiction, Elizabeth Hand noted that: "Lord Byron's Novel is a book that should, and I hope will, be read by many people, more than once. It certainly expands, algorithmically, to accommodate various readings."

Crowley ends his tetralogy that began with Ægypt with the novel Endless Things: A Part of Ægypt. Referring to the entire four books in the tetralogy as "a work of mind-spinning complexity," Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction contributor Elizabeth Hand went on to write that "Endless Things wondrously takes flight in a manner that, while not entirely unexpected, is still surprising and, in its final pages, almost unbearably moving."

Following the third book in the series, Dæmonomania, published seven years earlier in 2000, the novel features Pierce Moffett at last learning the truths behind the Ægypt myths, which can be learned through Renaissance mystical texts. "For those familiar with the previous Ægypt writings, this work offers a supremely satisfying conclusion to Crowley's tetralogy." wrote Christopher Bussmann in the Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "this marvelous tale comes full circle to reinforce its timeless themes of transformation, recreation and immortality."

In addition to Endless Things, 2007 saw the publication of In Other Words. This collection of the author's essays and reviews includes forty pieces encompassing an autobiography, Crowley's thoughts on writing, and his examinations of writers and books. Shelley Cox, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author's "analyses offer a distinctive blend of scholarship, literary history, and readability."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 57, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook 1982, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1983.

St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Turner, Alice K., and Michael Andre-Driussi, editors, Snake's-Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley, Cosmos Books (Canton, OH), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Analog: Science Fiction/Science Fact, August, 1987, Tom Easton, review of Ægypt, p. 181; December, 1989, Tom Easton, review of Novelty, p. 185.

Atlantic, September, 1994, review of Love and Sleep, p. 112.

Book, March-April, 2002, James Schiff, review of The Translator, p. 79.

Booklist, February 15, 2002, Ted Leventhal, review of The Translator, pp. 990-991; May 15, 2005, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land, p. 1646.

Book World, June 3, 2007, Bill Sheehan, "The End of History: An Adventurer Sets out to Discover the True Nature of Reality," review of Endless Things: A Part of Ægypt, p. 4.

Commonweal, December 2, 1994, Suzanne Keen, review of Love and Sleep, p. 26.

Entertainment Weekly, June 17, 2005, review of Lord Byron's Novel.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1994, review of Love and Sleep; June 15, 2000, review of Dæmonomania, p. 815; February 1, 2002, review of The Translator, p. 121; March 1, 2004, review of Novelties and Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction, p. 194; April 1, 2005, review of Lord Byron's Novel, p. 371; April 1, 2007, review of Endless Things.

Library Journal, August, 2000, Rachel Singer Gordon, review of Dæmonomania, p. 168; June 1, 2005, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Lord Byron's Novel, p. 116; November 15, 2006, Shelley Cox, review of In Other Words, p. 71; May 15, 2007, Christopher Bussmann, review of Endless Things, p. 78.

Locus, February, 2002, Faren Miller, review of The Translator.

Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1987, Carolyn See, review of Ægypt.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 1980, John Clute, review of Engine Summer, p. 47; December, 1987, Orson Scott Card, review of Ægypt, p. 32; January, 1992, Orson Scott Card, review of Great Work of Time, p. 51; June, 2002, Elizabeth Hand, review of The Translator; August, 2004, Elizabeth Hand, "Troll Fell," review of Novelties and Souvenirs, p. 35; August, 2005, Elizabeth Hand, review of Lord Byron's Novel, p. 29; July, 2007, Elizabeth Hand, review of Great Work of Time, p. 33.

New Statesman, November 20, 1987, Colin Greenland, review of Ægypt, p. 31.

New York Times Book Review, November 21, 1976, Gerald Jonas, review of The Deep; March 27, 1977; May 3, 1987, John Clute, review of Ægypt, pp. 9, 11; May 21, 1989, Colin Greenland, review of Novelty, p. 26; February 6, 1994, review of Antiquities: Seven Stories, p. 22; September 4, 1994, Jonathan Dee, review of Love and Sleep, p. 9; September 17, 2000, Jeff Waggoner, review of Dæmonomania, p. 25; June 2, 2002, review of The Translator, p. 24; June 19, 2005, Christopher Benfey, "Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Read," review of Lord Byron's Novel, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, February 20, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Ægypt, p. 73; April 14, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of Novelty, p. 64; August 29, 1994, Robert K.J. Killheffer, "John Crowley: ‘I Still Owe a Debt of Gratitude,’" p. 53; July 3, 2000, review of Dæmonomania, p. 53; January 14, 2002, review of The Translator, p. 38; May 24, 2004, "May Publications," p. 50; April 18, 2005, review of Lord Byron's Novel, p. 40; March 5, 2007, review of Endless Things, p. 37.

Times Literary Supplement, November 20-26, 1987, John Peake, review of Ægypt, p. 1274.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 18, 1989, review of Novelty, p. 6; September 11, 1994, Robert Chatain, review of Love and Sleep, pp. 1, 13.

Washington Post Book World, April 19, 1987, Michael Dirda, review of Ægypt, pp. 1, 7; December 6, 1992, review of Little, Big, p. 4; November 28, 1993, review of Antiquities, p. 8; July 10, 1994; August 14, 1994, Lawrence Norfolk, review of Love and Sleep, p. 5; March 24, 2002, Howard Norman, review of The Translator.

ONLINE

Booksense.com,http://www.booksense.com/ (August 17, 2004), Gavin J. Grant, "The Secret History of John Crowley."

Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (December 8, 2007), James Morrison, "Small, but Perfectly Formed," review of author's works.

Curled up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (December 8, 2007), Brian Charles Clark, review of Lord Byron's Novel.

Everything2,http://everything2.com/ (December 8, 2007), "John Crowley," profile of author.

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (August 20, 2004), "An Interview with John Crowley."

January Magazine Online,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (April, 2002), David Dalgleish, "False Modesty."

Nick Antosca Blog,http://brothercyst.blogspot.com/ (May 30, 2006), "Interview with John Crowley."

Ransom Center Web site,http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/ (August 20, 2004), "John Crowley Papers."

Reader's Robot,http://www.tnrdlib.bc.ca/rr.html (December 8, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Lord Byron's Novel.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (March 21, 2002), Laura Miller, review of The Translator.

Yale University Web site,http://www.yale.edu/ (December 8, 2007), faculty profile of author and author's CV.

About this article

Crowley, John 1942-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article